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An unusual object on display in Salford to mark the anniversary of the deaths of the Manchester Martyrs

Submitted by on November 23, 2015 – 5:13 pmNo Comment

Here’s an interesting story, lifted from the Working Class Movement Library blog today…

Manchester Martyrs maquetteAmong the many treasures of the Irish Collection at Salford’s Working Class Movement Library is a maquette (model) of a proposed monument by the Liverpool sculptor, Arthur Dooley, which had been commissioned by the Manchester branch of the Connolly Association. The subject of the piece is a memorial to three members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (more generally known as Fenians), William Allen, Michael Larkin, and Michael O’Brien, collectively known as the Manchester Martyrs.  The maquette is currently on display in our hall, to mark the anniversary of their deaths.

A veteran Manchester Fenian, Seamus Barrett, formed a Manchester Martyrs Memorial Committee at the end of the 19th century which put up a monument in St Joseph’s cemetery, Moston in 1898.  In the centenary year of 1967, it was felt that a memorial should be erected nearer to the actual event, and it was this that led the Connolly Association to commission the sculpture by Liverpool sculptor Arthur Dooley (1929-1994) who usually worked in scrap metal or bronze. The recently renovated sculpture of Dolores Ibarruri, La Pasionaria, in Glasgow is an example of his work.

The sculpture was to consist of three standing steel pillars, with attached Celtic shields, representing the three men, and a five ton block of granite from County Wicklow, to which a metal plaque with the men’s names, and some detail on the event and its significance, was to be attached. It was to stand on the site of the New Bailey prison in Salford, where they were hung.  Alas, because of opposition, both from local councillors on the planning committee, and from other groups and individuals, this impressive monument was never to be erected, though a red plaque commemorating the event in the area of the rescue at Hyde Road was unveiled in 1987.

There is an accompanying file at the WCML which documents some of this opposition.  It was donated, alongside the maquette, by the family of Jud Cooper after he died.  Jud had met Dooley while working as a TV researcher, and had kept the maquette in his hall until his death in 2011.  The file includes notes relating to the centenary, letters and press cuttings, the letters mostly from the Manchester branch of the still surviving Connolly Association, the cuttings from local and national newspapers from around the time of the controversy. Some of the incidents recounted in these files are quite alarming, for instance a letter printed in the Irish Democrat of November 1967, which had been sent to Manchester Connolly Association member Tom Redmond: “Sir, Rest assured no memorial to police-killing Fenians is going to be allowed in an English city. It will get the same treatment that your friends gave the memorial to Admiral Lord Nelson in Dublin last year, and with as much gelignite to blow the boulder back to its native Wicklow.

The donation also included some reel-to-reel audio tapes, including one with a Telefis Eireann label with the annotation, ‘M/c Martyrs / Patrick Galvin‘, but unfortunately the Library does not have the equipment, or anyone with the requisite expertise, to listen to these.  If anyone reading this can suggest how this could be done please get in touch.

The file of material in the Library also includes a public plea for funds from the Manchester Connolly Association to finance the project, and the press cuttings note contributions from people such as local MPs Frank Allaun and Stan Orme.  Although there are mentions in the 1967 cuttings that it was to be shown at Salford Art Gallery, and that the plaque on its own was to be unveiled at the Register Office at All Saints on Oxford Road, which is now part of Manchester Metropolitan University, an official web site devoted to Arthur Dooley’s work does not mention the work, and all the indications are that the sculpture itself was never made.  Our maquette therefore appears to be the only record of the monument which was envisaged in 1967.

Stuart Walsh, Library volunteer

The story of the Manchester Martyrs follows in a separate blog post…

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